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When Bewitched premiered in September 1964, Variety's reviewer predicted it would be a hit, largely based on the appeal of Elizabeth Montgomery: "A more beguiling witch would be hard to come by. ...In the final analysis, it was the manner in which Miss Montgomery brought off her subtle sorceries that captured the audience."
The New York Times' critic, Jack Gould, agreed: "Bewitched promises to be a bright niche of poplar TV."
Darrin is an ad executive at a New York agency called McMann and Tate. His boss, Larry Tate (David White), manages him mostly with threats and hollow promises; he's constantly threatening to fire Darrin if he doesn't perform -- usually just when he's distracted by some mishap brought on by Sam's magical relatives and friends.
In his 1964 review of the show, TV Guide critic Cleveland Amory heaped praise on supporting players Alice Pearce and George Tobias, who played nosy neighbor Agnes Kravitz and her husband, Abner. "Both are wonderful," Armory wrote, "and any episode without them [is] the poorer."
Most of the witches on Bewitched have names ending in "a" -- Samantha, Endora, Clara, Tabitha, Esmeralda, et al. The warlocks, including Uncle Arthur and Maurice, have no similar pattern.
Film star Agnes Moorehead played Samantha's mischeiveous mom, Endora. One of her most famous movie roles was as another mother: Charles Foster Kane's, in the 1941 Orson Welles classic Citizen Kane.
The actress had also played witches before. In 1964, just before Bewitched debuted, Agnes told the New York Post about her previous magical roles: "I've never played a good witch before," she said. "Both Rapunzel and Mombi in The Land of Oz [both on the Shirley Temple's Storybook TV series] were typical, wicked, storybook witches. But on this show, I'm not at all wicked. I'm quite a sophisticated gal. Endora is a very attractive and charming witch with a supernatural philosophy all her own. The humans in the script do plenty of foolish things and she loves showing up their foolishness."
She again played a witch, in her final TV appearance, a 1973 episode of Night Gallery.
Agnes said memories of her childhood imagination helped her develop the character of Endora. "All my childhood was one of fantasy," she told the Post. "I read all the Grimm fairy tales and the Anderson fairy tales and adored them. I have a great sort of imaginative background, so I've based Endora on what I already know about magic. Of course I'll act differently than a mortal. You don't go around moving furniture, go out in smoke, and come back in smoke without acting different!"
In an early Bewitched episode (one of the black-and-whites), Billy Mumy (later a star of Lost in Space) guest-starred as a skeptical orphan the Stephenses bring home for Christmas. Samatha flies the doubting thomas to the North Pole to meet her chum Santa Claus, then the kid ends up adopted by a new mom and dad. Dad was played by Bill Daily, later Major Healey on I Dream of Jeannie.
Before playing Darrin, Dick York acted extensively on the New York stage. He made his Broadway debut in 1950 in Tea and Sympathy, directed by Elia Kazan. York told the New York World Telegram what it was like to work with the legendary writer/director: "He has an uncanny way with actors because he was once an actor himself," York said in 1955. "He will never tell you how to do something. His approach is so roundabout that you end up thinking that everything you do is your own idea. It's not. You're doing exactly what he wanted you to do all along."
In 1955, Dick took over the male lead in the original Broadway production of Bus Stop opposite Kim Stanley. Playing a loud-mouthed cowboy who becomes intranced with a lounge singer, Dick took over from the original lead, Albert Salmi, who joined the national touring company to help build his fame.
Dick York started acting when he was child, to help pay his family's expeneses. He worked in radio shows in Chicago, then moved to New York in 1950 to do a radio show called Michael Shayne. "It had way-out kid acting parts," Dick told a reporter in 1965. "The writer on the show wrote scripts involving dope addicts and maniacs."
Elizabeth Montgomery provided a "guest voice," playing Samantha in an episode of the cartoon The Flintstones in 1965.
The logo of Bewitched's sponsor, Chevrolet, figured prominently in the show's animated opening sequence, while the show was on the air. (Darrin and Samantha were shown riding a broom which morphed into the Chevy logo.) In syndication, this advertising message was removed.
The final episode of Bewitched has a plot similar to the Jim Carrey movie, Liar Liar: Endora casts a spell requiring Darrin to tell the truth.
Elizabeth Montgomery's father, Robert Montgomery, was a major film star in the 1940s and '50s. His leading ladies included Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Greta Garbo. Elizabeth made her TV debut on his anthology show, Robert Montgomery Presents and appeared on it many times.
In 1975, Elizabeth starred in a TV remake of the Bette Davis classic Dark Victory.
Several key roles on Bewitched were recast over the years, including Mrs. Kravitz, Louise Tate (Larry's wife), and even the leading male character, Darrin.
Anges Moorehead played the Countess in a 1959 musical remake of the the 1939 classic The Women. The '59 production, The Opposite Sex, included men in the cast, which the original did not.Future Dynasty vixen Joan Collins took over the part of Crystal, played by Joan Crawford in the original.
Bewitched lasted for eight seasons, which was a little longer than some of the cast members would have liked. In the final season's episodes, Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick Sargeant don't look very happy to be working on the show.
In the mid-70s, a Bewitched spinoff, Tabitha, featured Darren and Samantha's grown-up daughter, played by Lisa Hartman. The entire series (one season), including a pilot with an entirely different case, has been released on DVD.
A 2005 big-screen adaptation of Bewtiched had an unusual twist. Rather than remaking the traditional Darren-and-Samantha storyline, filmmaker Nora Ephron decided to go a different direction: The movie is about an egotistical actor (played by Will Farrell) who decides to cast himself as Darren in a TV remake of the series. Of course, his TV wife, played by Nicole Kidman, turns out to be a real witch. Unfortunately, even with all that star power, the film didn't create box-office magic.